A program to foster young musicians with the potential to become professional classical players is entering a new phase. Four midstate middle schoolers were named as the second class of participants in the Nashville Symphony's Accelerando initiative.
Last year, the first group of six students began an intensive schedule of private lessons with members of the orchestra, as well as master classes and theory courses as a group. The symphony's education department tested their growth at juried performance evaluations, gave the students chances to attend orchestra rehearsals and organized a recital on the stage of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
If all goes according to plan, all six will continue their training with the symphony through the end of high school, with the ensemble giving them assistance and support as they audition for conservatories and university music programs.
The first year was, by all accounts, tough but rewarding. The kids and their parents describe it as a crash course in the intense focus on craft that is expected of professional classical musicians. But when the students have a moment of downtime together, you can also see the strong chemistry and bonds they've formed with each other.
That's to be expected — but it's no small thing. There are rarely more than one or two teenagers so devoted to their craft at any one school. Having the support of similarly focused peers can be a luxury. Now, that first, tightly knit group will set an example for the next class, adding another degree of mentorship to Accelerando.
For the symphony, the step of adding a second class nearly doubles both the number of students and, in some ways, the complexity of running Accelerando. Each of those students is promised a teacher until they start college, but not every member of the orchestra has the time or interest in taking on multiple students. Already, this second class includes three students who play instruments already represented in the first group, so several of Accelerando's professional mentors had to either expand their teaching load or tell the education department to look to someone else.
That may become a bigger issue in future years as the program continues to add students, especially given the trends in music education in Middle Tennessee. The string section is by far the orchestra's biggest, with the most personnel available to teach students. School music programs in this area, however, tend to emphasize bands.
While that's created a strong talent pool in wind and percussion instruments, relatively few children in the area pick up the violin, viola, cello or bass. As a result, Accelerando already has as many bassoon and trombone students as it has orchestra members who play those instruments.
The new class of Accelerando participants:
Angelina Bautista, oboe
- 8th grade
- John F. Kennedy Middle Prep, Nashville
Xayvion Davidson, bassoon
- 8th grade
- Rosa Parks Middle School, Nashville
Riya Mitra, violin
- 8th grade
- Sunset Middle School, Williamson County
- 7th grade
- Head Middle Magnet, Nashville